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EDUCATION, HEALTH PRIORITY

Payouts boost as Bahrain MPs approve budget

Manama, June 25, 2013

Bahrain MPs have approved the national budget for 2013-14, under which around 52,000 breadwinners with an income of less than BD1,000 ($2,630) will be eligible to receive a monthly anti-inflation allowance.

A seven-month stalemate over the budget has ended after 23 of the 30 MPs present at yesterday's extraordinary parliament session at the National Assembly Complex approved it, according to a report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

It was passed after more than 30 minutes of discussions, when parliament chairman Dr Khalifa Al Dhahrani forced the legislators to vote instead of restarting debate on the issue.

It means 45,000 civil servants will not receive a 15 per cent pay rise, which was a key reason for MPs rejecting the budget last month.

Bahrain Bloc president Ahmed Al Saati, who was among the MPs that pushed for the budget's approval, stressed the need for the government to tackle corruption to resolve the country's economic problem.

"The government needs to create a committee consisting of economic and managerial experts to solve the economic crisis in the country," he said during the session, which marked the last of the legislative semester.

"Bahrainis are dependent on allowances and government schemes and the government should take new measures to resolve problems."

His comments were reiterated by MP Isa Al Qadi, who speculated delays in passing the budget could be repeated in 2015 if the government does not diversify income streams.

"We cannot rely on oil and should follow directives of the Crown Prince to diversify income streams away from oil."

Al Qadi was one of seven MPs who rejected the budget.

MPs rejected the budget after lengthy negotiations last month, despite the government making several concessions.

However, it was sent back to them for the second time after being revised and approved by the Shura Council.

Parliament second vice-chairman Shaikh Adel Al Maawada said the budget was initially rejected to pressure the government to meet people's demands.

"The government's insistence to reject the 15 per cent increase demanded by MPs was clear," he said. "But we cannot leave the budget without approval or it will affect many people as well as projects."

Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairwoman Latifa Al Gaoud agreed, saying that delaying the budget further would have significantly affected Bahrain's difficult economic situation.

"It is not beneficial to call for increase in salaries when production levels are low."

Ali Shamtoot, who arrived at the chamber after the budget discussion had ended, held up a sign reading "Increase is a nation's demand".

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa hit back at MPs and said his ministry was working with the National Assembly committees to discuss all issues regarding the budget.

"Some MPs are saying there is possible corruption, and I say if they have proof I would personally go with them to file the case at responsible bodies for audits," he said.

"On diversifying income resources, we need legislation from parliament to work on this."

Under the new budget, 48,000 people earning less than BD300 will receive BD100, around 48,000 people being paid BD301 to BD700 will get BD70 and 10,000 people being paid between BD701 and BD1,000 will receive BD50.

The changes will replace the existing BD50 payout to anyone earning less than BD700, which was introduced in 2007.

The government has also agreed to increase pensions of Bahrainis working in the public and private sector, which will cost around BD158 million this year and next year. However, it has refused to fund a 15 per cent pay rise for 45,000 civil servants.

Shaikh Ahmed said BD361m had been allocated for the housing sector, BD831m for education, BD676m for health and BD210m for infrastructure projects. Total aid to beneficiaries provided by the Social Development Ministry has been increased by BD60m, he added. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | inflation | Budget | MP | Allowances |

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